Amid the wildernesses vast
That gird the Mississippi's shores,
'Mid woods whose shadows dense are cast
Where the Red River sluggish pours,
The wildcat makes his lonely camp,
His dark, impregnable abode,
Hid in the dusk, unwholesome swamp
Where human foot hath seldom trod.
In dense retreat, in hollow tree,
Or natural cave it rears its brood,
And hunts the forest's recesses
To feed their gaping mouths with food.
In silence of the darkling night,
Or when the new day has its birth,
It goes abroad with step as light
As fall of thistle-down to earth,
No bird may build its airy nest
Beyond the wildcat's plundering quest,
For swift and easy as a bird
It mounts, and scarce a leaf is stirr'd.
It runs, it flies, it springs, it leaps,
As graceful as the antelope,
Yet cruel as the tiger grim
In Indian swamp or mountain slope.
The hare, the 'possum, and the coon,
It waylays in the forest-glade;
'Gainst poultry-yard and sheepfold pen
Its ravaging inroads are made;
So with all arts the human race
Assails it in the pitiless chase.
At day-dawn forth the hunters go
With rifle and with yelping hound;
They run the red fox to his den,
They track the "cat" in forest grand;
They drive him to some dense retreat
Where high o'erhead the branches meet;
Close to some rough and gnarled limb
The frenzied creature hides and clings.
With foamy jaws and hair erect,
Fierce glances from his eyes he flings,
But deadly aim and rifle-ball
Soon humble him in headlong fall.
But if tenacious life remains,
He meets the baffled, fierce attack,
Then swift thro' wood and briery bush
He flies, the dog pack yelling at his back;
He scales some tree-top, or doth plunge
In some deep fissure of the ground,
And then the death-fight is renew'd
'Twixt the marauder and the hound,
And many a ghastly wound doth show
Before the quarry is laid low.